The 2017 Berghaus Dragon's Back Race came to a sizzling climax yesterday, as competitors completed the 5-day route in blazing weather. Only 127 of Monday's 223 starters completed the full race, reflecting the challenge of the route, which covers 315km and 15,500m of ascent.
Marcus Scotney put aside injury concerns to lead from the front on the final day, winning the race ahead of defending champion Jim Mann, who'd pushed him all the way.
In the women's race, Ireland's Carol Morgan caught and passed overnight leader Sabrina Verjee to claim the title.
"It's not really sunk in" said Marcus Scotney afterwards.
"I thought it was over last night and that I wouldn't be able to run, but today I decided that I had come here to complete the race and to win, and that I had to give it a go. I knew too that this was potentially my fastest day and that I could run most of it if the knee held out, and it did, though I didn't have a full range of movement. In the end, I was well inside my 40 hour target as well, so I'm delighted with the result."
After day four, Scotney was concerned about a knee injury and there were doubts that he would even start the final stage at all. However in the event he stretched his overnight lead over Jim Mann, crossing Black Mountain and finishing on the outskirts of Llandeilo in a total time of 37 hours 58 minutes (6:12 on the day), over an hour and a half ahead of Mann (39:38). Third place was claimed by Neil Talbott (41:53), marking a top three for Great Britain.
It was an exciting finale in the women's race, where the three leading runners were separated by only 15 minutes at the start of day five. In the end it was Carol Morgan of Ireland who crossed the finish line first in an overall time of 48:43 (7:57 on the day). During the day, she overhauled Sabrina Verjee's lead and went on to build a winning margin of 45 minutes. Verjee completed the race in 49:28, and Caroline Mcllroy was third in 50:23.
Morgan is the first international winner of the Berghaus Dragon's Back Race.
"I'm really not sure how I feel right now," she said afterwards.
"I was so nervous this morning. I get nervous before a 5k race and have never done anything this hard so there was more to be worried about. I didn't know what would happen or how I'd cope on a fifth day, and the other two runners are very strong."
"I didn't see either of them all day! I did contour around one hillside and had been told that Sabrina was only just in front. Maybe I saw her on the top, I don't really know, but after that I kept thinking she was behind and would come back at me. Then the road at the end was so brutally hot it was hard to keep going."
Elsewhere in the field, competitors had to battle the heat to make the cut-off times and complete the full race. Among them was Joe Faulkner, who became the only person to complete all four editions of the race since it was first held in 1992.
Race director Shane Ohly reflects on a week of Welsh mountain running:
"It's been an incredibly exciting Berghaus Dragon's Back Race and a really amazing week. The event had its first chasing starts since 1992 and the women's race was fantastically close, with three competitors within 15 minutes of each other at the start of today. Each of them suffered in the heat, but Carol had a very strong final day and that proved to be crucial."
"In the men's race, it was fascinating to watch the lead swap between Marcus and Jim. Ultimately, Marcus was faster and made fewer mistakes and fully deserves his brilliant win. I have huge respect for Jim for coming back and defending his title. He had nothing to prove and made some big navigational errors, yet still pushed Marcus all the way."
"And as for Joe Faulkner, he is characteristically relaxed about completing his fourth Dragon's Back Race, but it is a brilliant achievement and unlikely to be equalled any time soon."
- For full details of the results and reports, images and film from throughout the race, visit www.berghausdragonsbackrace.com